Article by: First of December Initiative Group
The so-called “Ukraine fatigue” means a fatigue from Europe itself and its principles. Eminent Ukrainian, Czech, Polish, Lithuanian and other intellectuals and civic actors called upon EU politicians and society to not turn a blind eye to Russian crimes in Ukraine and not go back to business as usual with the Kremlin.
Today, prior to the EU summit, the Ukrainian First of December initiative group made a public appeal addressed to EU leaders. It stresses that forgetting Ukraine, becoming overcome with “Ukraine fatigue” essentially means a fatigue from European founding principles. The moral indifference that it leads to is the root of self-isolation, xenophobia, and populism, which are tearing Europe apart.
Among the 34 signatories are former Presidents of Lithuania and Poland Valdas Adamkus and Aleksander Kwasniewski, former Foreign Ministers of Lithuania, Denmark, Iceland, Estonia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, journalists and intellectuals. Below is a translation of the appeal, which is also available in Russian and Polish.
Almost every great historical upheaval in Europe was preceded by fatigue. A fatigue from its principles. This rule asserted itself in the 20th century with a special cruelty. Its tragic patterns give no right to remain silent now when uncertainty once again dominates Europe.
Clouds of economic difficulties and social anxiety overshadow the EU’s optimistic perspectives. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from other lands have appeared on its roads. Terrorism has undermined the peace of once safest locations. For many, common problems have become annoying irritants.
This is why Europe is being overwhelmed by populism with its simple responses to complex issues. This is why xenophobia and chauvinism emerge as a defense mechanism against foreigners. This explains the growing desire to hide from problems, to avoid additional responsibilities, to lock away in one’s own exhaustion. This is called self-isolation.
Russia’s war against Ukraine, the occupation of Crimea, armed intervention in the Donbas, tens of thousands of victims, 1,500,000 internally displaced refugees are the problems which the average European wants to hide from behind the screen of exhaustion. Daily Russian diversions, provocations, and blackmail no longer appall a portion of the European political circles. They have become accustomed to this war. Routine exhausts compassion; indifference levels the victim with the aggressor.
But Russia’s war against Ukraine continues. The aggression continues.
The war [of Russia against Ukraine] drags on, killing people each day, and slowly exhausting the rest. For this reason, Europe’s exhaustion is the aggressor’s strongest ally, who violates world order with arms in hand.
Becoming overcome by “Ukraine fatigue,” turning a blind eye to Russia’s crimes in Ukraine, and returning to business as usual with the Kremlin is starting to seem like an offensively realistic solution. But it will be self-deception. Life has changed in Europe. One of the main reasons behind the change is a resumption of old external aggression against European values, meanings, and ways of life. No attempt to hide behind closed doors will return the previous comfort.
At a time when a united Europe is still trying to regain its foothold, we, representatives of various countries, urge European politicians and society to find the intellectual and moral strength to resist the so-called “Ukraine fatigue” and the temptation of appeasing Russian aggression. This illness will lead to one end: an exhaustion from oneself, from one’s own values, from European founding principles.
We call on all thinking people of our joint European community to show solidarity and to find the strength to stand against the threats of self-isolation, xenophobia, and populism, which will tear Europe apart.
This ethical choice should envisage choosing the values of freedom and the rule of law over the immoral compromises of “realpolitik,” solidarity and mutual support over isolation, the vision of building a United Europe over local interests and ambitions.
“Ukraine fatigue” is a metaphor. It also applies to the attitude about the rest of Europe, which, despite its geographical proximity, remains terra incognita for the nearsighted West. A great deal depends on the countries of this region, on the accountability and effectiveness of their leaderships and the maturity of their societies. But Europe needs to make an effort to discover these “forgotten” European nations.
The ethical choice means including Ukraine in the mental map of Europe. This applies also to Georgia, Moldova, and, eventually, and all of Eastern Europe, whose presence in the European Union must once and for all become a political and spiritual reality.
Europe cannot hide from itself.
Most of all, it needs to guard itself against a fatigue from its own principles, a fatigue from itself.
Let’s not be afraid of the future. Let’s create it together.
15 September 2016
- Vytautas Landsbergis, the first Head of the renewed state of Lithuania
- Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania (1998-2003, 2004-2009)
- Aleksander Kwasniewski, President of the Republic of Poland (1995-2005)
- Algirdas Saudargas,Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (1990-1992, 1996-2000)
- Petras Vaitiekūnas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania (2006-2008)
- Audronius Azubalis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lithuanian Republic (2010-2012)
- Antanas Valionis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lithuanian Republic (2000-2001)
- Uffe Elleman-Jensen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Denmark (1982-1993)
- Juri Luik, Minister for Foreign Affairs (1994-1995) and Minister of Defense (1999-2002) of Estonia
- Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland (1988-1995)
- Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic (2007-2009, 2010-2013)
- Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Foreign Secretary (1995-1997) and Defence Secretary (1992-1995) of the United Kingdom
- Adam Michnik, Founder and editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper
- Vyacheslav Briukhovetsky, Honorary President of the National University of “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Bohdan Hawrylyshyn, member of the Club of Rome, founding member of the World Economic Forum in Davos, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, Major Archbishop Emeritus of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Ivan Dziuba, former dissident, literary critic, member of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Yevhen Zakharov, former dissident, human rights activist, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Myroslav Marynovych, former dissident, philosopher, human rights activist, Vice-Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Volodymyr Panchenko, literary critic, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Myroslav Popovych, philosopher, director of the Ukraine’s Skovoroda Institute of Philosophy, member of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Vadym Skurativskyi, philosopher, culturologist, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Yuri Shcherbak, writer, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Ihor Yukhnovskyi, the first Leader of the democratic People’s Rada in the Parliament of Ukraine (1990 – 1994), scientist, member of Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences, member of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Ivan Vasyunyk, Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine (2007-2010), chief of the secretariat of “The First of December” Initiative Group
- Danylo Lubkivsky, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine (2014)
- Volodymyr Viatrovych, historian, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance
- Josyf Zisels, former dissident, head of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities in Ukraine
- Volodymyr Ohryzko, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ukraine (2007-2009)
- Yuriy Makarov, journalist, writer
- Olena Styazhkina, historian, writer, member of the Ukrainian PEN-Centre
- Oksana Zabuzhko, writer
- Audrius Siaurusevicius, Director General of the Lithuanian National Radio and Television
- Ramūnas Bogdanas, former advisor to Mr. Vytautas Landsbergis as the first head of state of Lithuania